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President Bush Schedules Press Conference; Senate Troubles Continue; George Mitchell Discusses Senate Impasse

Aired April 28, 2005 - 15:30   ET


ANNOUNCER: No heroes in Washington -- guess again. Stay tuned for the story behind the picture.
Now, live from Washington, Judy Woodruff's INSIDE POLITICS.


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you for joining us. President Bush is getting ready to face reporters in primetime tonight, more evidence that he has put his aversion to formal news conferences behind him. He is expected to discuss an issue that he cares about and another one that Americans are worried about, and he will likely face tough questions about political allies and agenda items in peril.

CNN's Andrea Koppel is at the White House today. Hi, Andrea.


This is the president's first primetime press conference of his administration, only the fourth since the president took office in January of 2001. A rare occurrence by any stretch and gives you a sense the degree to which his White House is concerned about the fact that either the president's message is either getting overshadowed or it's not resonating with the American public as they would like on two key issues.

One of them, near and dear to the president's heart, that is, Social Security reform and the other energy, in particular, rising gas prices. That's something that Americans know all too well. Going to the pump these days, there sky high prices. Many are just down right angry. They know that with summer driving season upon us that it's sure to creep even higher.

Just yesterday, Mr. Bush shared an exchange that he had with an American soldier in Texas who said, Mr. Bush, why didn't you lower gas prices? The president's response, if I could I would.

We know the president struck out at Crawford earlier this week. He was hoping to get short-term relief for Americans from Saudi Arabia's crown prince, but the crown prince said that what he would be able to do was really more in the long term, that the United States would need more refineries.

That was something the president mentioned in a speech he gave just yesterday on energy, in which he laid out some new ideas that he had for bringing, again, long-term relief to Americans, wasn't going to affect gasoline prices.

And, Judy, it's affecting him in the polls, at least the White House is concerned that it is. The most recent ABC News/Washington Post poll showed the president's approval rating at 47 percent. That is a tie with his all-time lowest approval rating.

The White House is also concerned about the fact that the president's message on Social Security which he's been trying to hammer for the last 60 days in his 60 city, 60 day tour, barnstorming across the United States, trying to impress on the American people his needs on the need to reform Social Security.

Again, tonight, the White House spokesman Scott McClellan saying the president will offer some new details on his Social Security ideas. But the president said that he wants Congress to pass this new legislation by August. And in fact the polls again showing this week that it wasn't good news for the president. 64 percent now say that they do not approve of the president's ideas for reforming Social Security.

So, you know, we can expect these two issues to dominate what the president wants to talk about tonight, Judy. But as you know during these press conferences, really any question is fair game. In fact, you may even hear the president getting asked about this woodpecker that the White House announced today had been thought to have been extinct, but was discovered much to, I'm sure the surprise and happiness of many bird watchers out there, in Arkansas -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: Well, we're all going to keep an open mind until it gets under way. All right, Andrea Koppel at the White House, thank you.

So if you who are watching us could be at the news conference tonight, what would you ask the president? Coming up, we'll get a sense what Americans would like to share with Mr. Bush.

And be sure to stay with CNN for complete coverage and analysis of the president's remarks beginning at 8:00 pm Eastern.

Over on Capitol Hill, there's more talk of a compromise in the fight over filibusters and judicial nominees which some have dubbed nuclear light. So, is it anything more than talk? Let's check in with our congressional correspondent Ed Henry. Hi, Ed.


A lot of talk, no deal, looks like war.

In a relatively short speech today on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Bill Frist nine times used the word obstruct or obstruction to describe the way he says Democrats are filibustering these judicial nominees of president Bush.

And it's a sign of a delicate dance here that Bill Frist is going through. He was hitting the Democrats hard, because it's clear that Bill Frist is probably going to be an candidate for president in 2008. He wants to appeal to his conservative base, but at the same time, he wants to look like he's compromising. He's trying to reach across the aisle with a compromise deal here.

And the bottom line is his proposal is pretty straightforward, Democrats could still filibuster the lower-level district court nominees. But Democrats would have to stop filibustering the federal, appellate and supreme court nominees. In exchange, Democrats would get 100 hours of Senate floor debate on these court nominees. But that is something that Bill Frist said, basically, there's a very simple principal here at stake.


SEN. BILL FRIST, (R-TN) MAJORITY LEADER: Throughout this debate, we have held firm to a simple principle, judicial nominees deserve up or down votes. Vote for them, vote against them, but give them the courtesy of a vote. Yet judicial nominees have not been given that courtesy, they've gone two, three or even four years without a vote.


HENRY: Earlier this week, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid offered a compromise of his own, which is that if Republicans would not use the nuclear option which is basically changing Senate rules to end filibustering, that Harry Reid would let about four of these who are currently blocked get through.

That was immediately rejected by Senator Frist this week and other Republicans. Today, Senator Reid returned the favor in blunt terms.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D-NV) MINORITY LEADER: And I don't mean to demean the proposal, because I'm going to take a close look at it and see if there's any way we can work with it, but I would say for a lack of a better description, it's a big wet kiss to the far right, Mr. President.


HENRY: So, the bottom line here that we've heard a lot about a nuclear showdown. But it looks like both sides have come to the brink of war and they're blinking a little bit. Senate Republicans are looking at the fact that polls are showing that Americans by about a 2 to 1 margin are against this nuclear option idea.

Democrats, on the other hand, are also a little bit concerned about the fact that what they've been saying, which is that they will shut down the Senate and potentially effectively shut down the entire government's business if Bill Frist moves forward with the nuclear option, Democrats realize that might be an extreme response to the nuclear option.

So both sides are a little bit concerned. But they're each getting pressure from the left and the right, the conservative and liberal activists, who really want to see a nuclear war over this. This is a big issue for them, so there's a push and pull for both Harry Reid and Bill Frist. And the bottom line is, though they're trying to compromise, there's no deal yet and they're moving closer and closer to a nuclear war -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: So, all right. And clearly no timetable. All right.

Ed Henry, thank you very much. He's watching it.

Well, the House, meantime, is moving closer today toward an investigation of Majority Leader Tom DeLay. After voting last night to scrap ethics rules created -- according to the Democrats -- to protect him. The Ethics Committee could meet as early as next week to organize and begin preparations for an expected probe of DeLay's overseas travel.

Now, DeLay denies allegations that some of his trips were financed by a lobbyist and his clients in violation of House rules.

Our national correspondent Bruce Morton takes a closer look at congressional travel and who is paying for it.


BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): 435 Congressmen, 100 Senators, they travel. Political Moneyline, a nonpartisan organization which tracks this travel says they spent over $16 million on 5,410 private trips over the last five years.

Most trips, Democratic Congressman Harold Ford, who's running for the Senate in Tennessee, 63 on trips. The most money spent on trips, Republican Congressman James Sensenbrenner, almost $168,000. Favorite destinations outside the U.S., Mexico and Israel.

There are rules. Lobbyists can't pay for your trips, but non- profit organizations can and the lobbyists or his client can contribute to those.

LARRY NOBLE, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: I think the law actually has some lines. The question is, whether the lines make any sense. What the law says is that the lobbyists cannot pay for the trips. However, nothing stops the clients of the lobbyist paying for the trips and the lobbyist to go on the trip with the member of Congress. And so in a sense, there's a fig leaf quality to the law.

MORTON: The old rule is water finds a crack, money finds a campaign. Still true.

NOBLE: Money will always be a part of politics. Lobbying is a part of politics. The question is where you want to draw the lines. And what you find acceptable. And what the public finds acceptable. The problem is that some of things that are going on really discourages the public.

STUART ROTHENBERG, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Washington, frankly, is about pushing the envelope, about making contacts, about throwing your weight around. And sometimes -- sometimes you throw it further than you're supposed to. And sometimes you get away with it.

MORTON: One good bet, if they rewrite the law, try to tighten it, the very smart people in this city will find the way around the new rules, too.

Bruce Morton, CNN, Washington.


WOODRUFF: Thank you, Bruce.

Turning now to our "Political Byte," Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to bring a bill to a vote this summer that would make it a federal crime to transport a minor across state lines to obtain an abortion as a way to avoid state parental consent laws. A similar bill passed the House yesterday by a vote of 270-157. If enacted, it would be the 5th law passed to reduce abortions since President Bush took office.

Meantime, the "Washington Post" reports a confidential memo prepared by an NAACP layer. Documents claim that the group's former president, Kweisi Mfume, gave preferential treatment to female employees with whom he had close, personal relationships. Mfume denies the allegations. He also says the claims did not influence his decision last fall to step down from the civil rights group.

Meanwhile, some Democratic strategists are questioning Senator Rick Santorum's use of campaign funds to pay a $390 tab at the famous Gino's Steaks in Philadelphia. "Roll Call" reports, the money went toward a giant order for cheesesteaks, delivered to staffers of Senator Edward Kennedy. It was a payoff for Kennedy's New England Patriots Superbowl victory over Santorum's Philadelphia Eagles. How low will they go?

Well, during these days of high tension in the Senate, members may wonder what past party leaders would do. Up next, Republican Bob Dole has weighed in on the current filibuster fight and now Democrat George Mitchell wants to respond.

Also ahead, First Lady Laura Bush outdoes the pope and talks about it, an interview you will see only on CNN.

And later, Bill Schneider tell us what President Bush and Governor Schwarzenegger have in common, and why they may not be happy about it.


WOODRUFF: Just a little while ago, I discussed the debate over judicial filibusters with former Democratic Senator George Mitchell of Maine. He served as the Democratic leader in the Senate for six years. I began by asking him, who is right? Republicans who claim that Senate Democrats are unfair, or Democrats who say the same thing about Republicans?

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) SEN. GEORGE MITCHELL, (D), FMR. SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I think in this case, the Democrats are. There's a long history of filibuster of judicial nominees. The assertion that this is a new tactic employed by Senate Democrats is contradicted by the facts in history. One out of every four nominees for the Supreme Court, in all of American history, was not confirmed and many of them didn't receive up or down votes.

In 1968, Republicans successfully filibustered the Democratic president's nominee for chief justice, the only time that's happened in modern history. In 2000, just a few years ago, in the last year of Bill Clinton's presidency, Republican senators filibustered two nominees for circuit court, and overall -- by means other than filibuster -- they prevented votes from occurring on more than 60 of President Clinton's nominations. So, the assertion that this is a new tactic is simply not so.

Secondly, the fact is that President Bush has nominated 216 persons to the federal courts, and 206 have been approved: 95 percent of his nominations have been approved. How unfair is that?

WOODRUFF: Well, everyone has his or her own set of numbers. Senator Bob Dole, who, of course, was your Republican counterpart -- Republican leader -- when you were in the Senate -- he wrote an op-ed in the "New York Times" yesterday, in which, among other things, he said, Bill Clinton, he said, nominated two judges to the federal bench that he, Bob Dole, didn't like, and yet they got an up or down vote. He's asking, isn't turnabout the right thing to do here?

MITCHELL: Well, they did get up or down votes, and almost all of the nominees of the current president have received up or down votes and have been confirmed. As I said, 95 percent of President Bush's nominees for the courts have been approved. That's a higher approval rate than President Clinton had, than President Bush, Sr., had, than President Reagan had. Now, what are they saying, that you have to have 100 percent? My view is that the nuclear option is itself profoundly unfair, and it isn't playing by the rules. It will violate the rules so that the majority can get their way. I don't think the American people will accept that.

WOODRUFF: Well, let me also quote something else Senator Bob Dole wrote yesterday. He said, "the Democratic minority has abandoned the tradition of mutual self-restraint," that he said, "has long allowed the Senate to function as an institution."

MITCHELL: The fact is that the Republicans have aggressively used the filibuster when they were in the minority, including filibusters of judicial nominees. Twice in 2000, Bill Clinton's last year in office, Republicans filibustered President Clinton's nominees to the circuit court. In 1968, Republicans filibustered the Democratic president's nominee for chief justice, the only time in history, in modern times, that has occurred. So, the suggestion that Democrats somehow are doing something new is simply incorrect. Republicans themselves have used this tactic in the past when they have been in the minority. WOODRUFF: What about the American public's perception of all of this, Senator Mitchell? People look at what's going on in Washington right now -- this and other issues -- and they see a Congress at loggerheads. Aren't both parties being hurt by this?

MITCHELL: Yes, I believe they are. I believe both parties, and everyone involved in politics. But, the reality is that this is unprecedented step that will be bad for the country and Senate, and, I believe, if adopted, ultimately bad for those who employ it. It's going to come back to haunt them. The fact is, if history is any guide, Republicans aren't going to control the Senate forever, and when the Democrats get back in, they will, of course, be moved to take the same tactics, to say that they can change the rules anytime they want.


WOODRUFF: Former senator, former Senate Democratic leader, George Mitchell.

Tomorrow, on INSIDE POLITICS, we're going to get a different perspective on the filibuster fight from C. Boyden Gray. He was White House counsel to the first President Bush.

Laura Bush talks about her trip to the west coast, and some things you may not know about her. Up next, our Dana Bash talks with the first lady about how she views her role as a public figure.


WOODRUFF: As we reported yesterday, First Lady Laura Bush is on the West Coast this week, visiting schools and other groups dedicated to helping children.

In an exclusive interview, our White House correspondent Dana Bash asked the first lady about her busy schedule during last year's presidential campaign and why she has chosen not to go on the road to promote the big issues on her husband's second-term agenda.


LAURA BUSH, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES: Am I going to go on the road for Social Security?

DANA BASH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, why not take on issues that -- to use your popularity, for example, to help your husband, like you did during the campaign, on an issue like Social Security?

L. BUSH: Well, that's a very good question. Maybe I'll do that. But I'm having a really great time pointing out the programs I've visited for the last three days while we've been traveling here on the West Coast. And I think that's really where my expertise is. And I think it's really a better use of my time, really.

BASH: You're well into your fifth year in office and although we think we know you, there are a lot of sort of issues in terms of the personal you that we don't know about. Surprise me. Tell me, is there something at that public simply doesn't know about that perhaps would surprise them about Laura Bush?

L. BUSH: Let's see, what would that be? They may not know that I love music and I like to listen to rock 'n' roll and that sort of music a lot. I have a very large record collection from my youth. Let's see, what else they might not know. I know they know I love to read. That's something that's really...

BASH: Any guilty pleasures?

L. BUSH: ... very important for me. Not really.

BASH: "Desperate Housewives," maybe?

L. BUSH: No, not really. I don't watch "Desperate Housewives," but I have a stack of the DVDs of the first series, which I keep saying I'm going to watch, but so far I haven't.

BASH: Recommended by your daughters, I assume?

L. BUSH: Recommended by my daughters, exactly.


WOODRUFF: First Lady Laura Bush talking to Dana yesterday -- or rather today. Mrs Bush is making stops in California this week to promote initiatives designed to help children avoid drugs and gangs.

Some odd-looking characters made it through security at the Pentagon today. Spiderman and Captain American dropped in to promote a Marvel comic book saluting U.S. troops. They were greeted by someone who has a different kind of special powers, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

It's nice to see them smiling over there.

If you had 15 minutes of the president's time, what would you ask him and what would you tell him? Gallup polled Americans about just that and we'll tell you what they said when we come back.

Plus, they are both chief executives, and they're both Republicans, but what else does President Bush and Arnold Schwarzenegger of California have in common? The answer coming up.


WOODRUFF: It's a little before 4:00 on the East Coast and as the markets get set to close on Wall Street, I'm joined by Kitty Pilgrim in New York with "The Dobbs Report." Hello, Kitty.


We have another rough day on Wall Street in progress. Stocks tumbling. We're just about to close. Let's take a look. Dow Industrials losing 127 points. Nasdaq, now more than one percent. The major reason for those losses: a report showed the GDP grew it at its slowest pace in two years in the last quarter.

Now, economists say that gas prices cut into consumer spending and business expansion. It's a 3.1 percent annual rate, lower than forecast, a decrease from the previous quarters. Goods were not sold. They piled up. Business inventories grew at their fastest pace in almost five years. That is raising concerns that the slowdowns could continue through the spring.

Let's take a look at oil prices. They finally drop below $50 a barrel, but just briefly. Didn't stick. They closed slightly higher. The consumer is hurting. Oil companies, however, cleaning up. Exxon Mobil reports that its earnings jumped to nearly 44 percent last quarter to nearly $8 billion.

Here's some good news for home-buyer. Long-term mortgage rates fell for a fourth straight week. Freddie Mac says 30-year fixed rate mortgage fell to 5.78 percent. New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, though, is investigating the mortgage market. At issue is whether some of the nation's banks have discriminated against some borrowers by charging them higher mortgage rates and fees. A source close to the investigation says Spitzer is looking into the practices of Citigroup, HSBC, Wells Fargo and Countrywide Financial.

Coming up, 6:00 p.m. Eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," one company hoping to keep outsourcing at home at computer-programming facilities in rural America.


KATHY BRITAIN WHITE, PRES., RURAL SOURCING: There is a huge talent base is that going unutilized. There are over 1,000 different universities that are located in what we think of as non-metro areas. Most of those students, when they graduate, if they want to work in their major, they have to leave the area.


PILGRIM: Also, tonight, believe it or not, one town in Connecticut is inundated with illegal aliens, but the mayor has a radical plan to fight the problem.

And, Senator Susan Collins and Congresswoman Jane Harman will tell us about their new proposal to strengthen security at U.S. ports.

And, former GOP Senator John Danforth says the far right is taking over the Republican party. He'll tell us why. That, and more, 6:00 eastern on "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT," but for now, back to Judy Woodruff. Judy?

WOODRUFF: Kitty, thank you. We will be watching, and now, back to INSIDE POLITICS.

Members of the White House press corp are busy preparing their questions for the president's news conference tonight. If you could ask Mr. Bush about anything, what would it be? The Gallup organization asked Americans what they would want to discuss with the president. Most, 22 percent, said they would urge him to pull troops out of Iraq. The polls suggest the public would also like to talk to Mr. Bush about high energy costs, tell him to leave Social Security alone, praise him for doing a good job or criticize the job he's doing and urge him to resign.

Well, the president is pursuing an ambitious second-term agenda, and he said he's willing to take the heat for it. In that, he's apparently not alone. Our senior political analyst Bill Schneider considers the political plights of Mr. Bush and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.


BILL SCHNEIDER, CNN SR POLITICAL ANALYST: The rule about political capital is, when you've got it, spend it, because you can't hold on to it.

GEORGE W. BUSH, UNITED STATES PRESIDENT: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style.

SCHNEIDER: And spend it is exactly what the president is doing, with the bold agenda on Social Security and spreading democracy in the Middle East and energy and judges and the culture of life. There's only one problem: the president's political capital is just about depleted. He had a huge supply of it after 9/11, and he spent it on Iraq. The 2004 election, which Bush won with 51 percent of the vote, replenished only a little of it.

Now, look at what's happened to the president's job ratings as of April: this CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup poll, 48 percent; "The Washington post"/ABC News poll, 47 percent. CBS News, Associated Press, American Research Group polls, all 44 percent. Bush's average job rating for April, 45 percent; Bush's average in January in the same five polls, 50 percent, down five points in three months to the lowest level of his presidency. Result? The president's agenda is in trouble.

Now, shift to California. When Arnold Schwarzenegger won a spectacular victory in the 2003 recall campaign, he, too, had a huge supply of political capital. He spent it, too, on a campaign to straighten out the state's finances. Democrats gave the new governor crucial support.

SEN. DIANE FEINSTEIN (D), CALIFORNIA: Vote yes on proposition 57, and vote yes on proposition 58.


FEINSTEIN: Thank you.

GOV. ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you very much, Senator Feinstein.

SCHNEIDER: This year, Governor Schwarzenegger set out his own bold agenda: pension reform and spending cuts and education reform and legislative redistricting. His targets have been running ads against him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The governor's always running around talking about reform...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: ...but to me, it sounds a lot more like breaking his word on education.

SCHNEIDER: Look at what's happened to Schwarzenegger's political capital. The governor's job approval rating was at 60 percent in January. Now it's down to 40, down 20 percent this year. Result? The governor is now scaling back his agenda and negotiating with Democrats.


SCHNEIDER (on camera): Governor Schwarzenegger and President Buth -- Bush, rather -- both over reached, with agendas that went beyond their mandates. Both men's political capital is depleted and they are now into deficit spending.

WOODRUFF: So, Bill, what is a smart politician do in these circumstances?

SCHNEIDER: They try to recover some of that capital which is exactly why the president is having a news conference tonight. He wants to restart his agenda and try to recover as much as he can. He hasn't given these very often.

WOODRUFF: But, does that mean a smart politician continues to pursue everything he has been trying to get -- trying to win -- whether it's Social Security in Washington or whether it's pension reform or education reform in California?

SCHNEIDER: No, he might take -- the President Bush might take a cue from Governor Schwarzenegger to concentrate on the things that are achievable and not worry too much, put the others on the back burner, which is exactly what Governor Schwarzenegger is doing in California.

WOODRUFF: All right. In fact, I talked to him about it last week. All right, Bill Schneider, thank you very much.

CNN, of course, will cover the president's news conference tonight at 8:00. You can watch and get complete coverage and analysis, 8:00 eastern.

Well, when President Bush does step up to the podium tonight, does he have a lot of explaining to do? Well, Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile will come at that question from different angles, next.

Also ahead, why are Democrats just saying no to some of the president's judicial nominees? We'll profile one judge who is on their no-way list.

And what are the bloggers saying about the Republican retreat on ethics rules? Find out when we track opinion on line.


WOODRUFF: With me now, former Gore campaign manager Donna Brazile and Bay Buchanan, president of American Cause.

The president is having a news conference tonight. We've had Bill Schneider just talking about his poll ratings dropping, around -- average of 45 percent. What does the president need to do tonight, Bay?

BAY BUCHANAN, PRES. AMERICAN CAUSE: Well, he's obviously going to talk directly to the people about what he wants to do, and I think he's going to hit the Social Security, the privatization, something that he believes very strongly in. And, there's nothing wrong with fighting for something you believe in and not winning. I think he's got an uphill battle at this stage, but I think he should continue to fight it. I think he's going to talk about taxes. He's won every single year on taxes. He's going to look to make the tax cuts permanent that are there now, and I think he's going to win on that one. So, he's got a lot to offer.

DONNA BRAZILE, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Well, I think on Sunday -- we had Justice Sunday -- tonight's going to be Resurrection Thursday. The president is going to try to resurrect his failed judges. He's going to try to make a case -- I'm sure he's going to try to resurrect Mr. Bolton, and perhaps try to resurrect his failed Social Security privatization plan.

So, I think the American people don't want to hear about resurrecting the old, they want to hear about relief from skyrocketing gas prices. They want to hear about relief prescription drugs. They want to hear about jobs.

WOODRUFF: In fact, the recent Gallup Poll shows 61 percent of the American people say economic conditions are getting worse, up from 50 percent last month. I mean, that's a pretty big jump.

BAY BUCHANAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: It is. And there's no quicker way of getting everybody's attention on the economy than gas prices. And I do believe he will address that. But he has already commented he doesn't see any short-term relief coming.

So, that's something that he's just going to look towards. I think he will talk about tax relief for businesses as well as individuals out there. And trying to make certain that this economy remains stable. And I think he will try to get the people to feel confident in what the future holds.

BRAZILE: He was just holding the crown prince's hand. He should have twisted his arm and got them to lower the...

BUCHANAN: How do you know he didn't?

BRAZILE: We don't know. But perhaps he will tell us tonight.

Again, the American people want to hear some relief. He has been in office now 100 days. This is the second term. So, they want to have some relief at the gas pump.

WOODRUFF: But what specifically can a president do right away about the price of gasoline?

BRAZILE: Well first of all, he can negotiate with the Saudies to lower the price of crude oil. Look, some of these major gasoline companies right now are, you know, just floating with cash. He can talk to them about providing us relief at the gas pump.

BUCHANAN: We know very well he talked to the crown prince about this. But clearly he can't say I told him what to do, because the crown prince will be in trouble at home.

I think there has been -- without question -- there has been discussion about that. He's going to tell the American people, listen, I'm working on this problem. We're all concerned about it. And to feel confident that things are going to get better.

BRAZILE: But his energy that gives more -- even the president last week commented that the energy plan that Congress was putting forward will not bring any relief. So perhaps the president will outline in more detail than what he did yesterday a plan that will really bring down gas prices.

WOODRUFF: Let's talk about Tom DeLay, the House ethics issues. Bay, we know in a surprise move the Speaker, the leadership in the House, said it's all right for Ethics Committee to go on and investigate some of these charges against Tom DeLay.

This backing down, or change of heart, whatever you want to call it, what does that say about what is going on inside the Republican leadership in the House?

BUCHANAN: It was smart politics. The Democrats played this thing very smart the last couple of months. They've just said no, no Ethics Committee hearings. The American people are saying what do you mean you have no Ethics Committee hearings. This is not a good thing.

And so after the Democrats made themselves very clear, they wouldn't negotiate, they wouldn't come to the table. I think the Democrats -- the Republicans did absolutely the right thing. Let's have these hearings. That way DeLay will be shown that there's been absolutely nothing wrong. And you will see lots of Democrats having their travel reports reviewed, as well.

WOODRUFF: Is that what we're going to see?

BRAZILE: No. Look, I think this is a smart move on behalf of the Speaker yesterday to restore the integrity of the House. To allow those rules, the rules of the 108th Congress, to continue into this Congress. I think the Republicans did an amazingly abrasive, arrogant thing when they changed the rules.

So this is good. This is good for Mr. DeLay to have, you know, his peers look at all of this allegations and come clean. WOODRUFF: Let's talk final about the filibusters issue in the Senate over the president's judicial nominees. We just heard Ed Henry reporting a little while ago that there's some sign of give on both sides, but not enough to bring us any sort of real compromise. Who is winning? Who is losing? Where is this coming down?

BUCHANAN: I believe we have the numbers. I know it's going to be very close and you never know. It's that close. I believe the Senate majority we have for the nuclear option.

I think you can't threaten this. You can't threaten and threaten and then not do it and then make a little negotiating and then if they don't do what we want six months from now, start it again. This is it. We either do it, or we're never going to do it.

And I say move ahead. Do it. And let's change the rules so the judge does have an up or down vote in the Senate as they should have.

BRAZILE: Bay, you just had this exercise in the House by changing the rules and Ethics Committee.

No way, Judy. This is a bad mistake for the Republicans to go down this road. The American people would like to see checks and balances restored and stay the same. And again, if the Republicans go down this road, once again we'll find two or three months later we'll see them reversing themselves.

BUCHANAN: No, you will not. You will see judges, good judges, worth judges going through there and passing. Because what the Democrats know very well is if the Senate is allowed to vote, they will vote to confirm every one of these judges, every one. Not one of them is questionable. And it's the minority that....

BRAZILE: They are very questionable, because they question the rule of law. They question the precedents. So these judges should be left on the table for some other era, but not this era. And I agree with the Democrats that no way we should not change those rules.

WOODRUFF: Well, you didn't agree, but we're going to have you back anyway. Bay Buchanan and Donna Brazile. Thank you both. We'll see you next week. Thank you.

More on the debate over judicial filibusters when we run. Just what is it about a handful of the president's nominees that causes Democrats to object so strongly. I'll take a closer look at one of those nominees, Judge Janice Rogers Brown. That's next.


WOODRUFF: Among the seven judicial nominees President Bush renominated after he was reelected in November is Janice Rogers Brown. The president wants to add her to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. She was elected to the California Supreme Court in 1996. And her judicial philosophy is sometimes compared with that of Clarence Thomas. Her critics often cite her rulings on topics like affirmative action and abortion rights. She is also known for taking a clear stand on sometimes controversial issues.


WOODRUFF (voice-over): May 24, 2003, commencement day at Catholic Universities Columbus School of Law.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our honoree knows what it is like to be denied opportunity, but She has never believed herself to be a victim.

WOODRUFF: There she was, California's Supreme Court Justice Janice Rogers Brown. A sharecroppers daughter who grew up in segregated Alabama. A one-time single mother who worked her way through college and law school. Her message to the graduates that day, stay true to your faith.

JANICE ROGERS BROWN, CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: For what we ultimately pursue is a true vision of justice and ordered liberty, respectful of human dignity and the authority of God.

WOODRUFF: The White House was watching. And two months later, President Bush nominated Justice Brown to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. A seat often viewed as a stepping stone to the Supreme Court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You swear that the testimony you're about to give before the committee will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

WOODRUFF: But since 2003, Justice Brown's nomination has been stalled in the Senate.

SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER, (D) JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There's a lot in your record that troubles me. And I think you have got a rough road to hoe, at least on this side of the aisle.

WOODRUFF: Democrats brand her a radical extremist, far out of the mainstream. They point to her views on abortion rights and some of her more outspoken speeches.

"Where government moves in," she once said, "community retreats, civil society disintegrate, and ability to control our own destiny atrophies." She called the New Deal the triumph of our socialist revolution. Justice Brown doesn't shy away from those statements.

JANICE ROGERS BROWN, CALIFORNIA SUPREME COURT: A judge is not some kind of automaton, or computer. You know, a judge is a thinking human being.

WOODRUFF: She insists that, on the bench, the Constitution is her guide.

BROWN: When you make a decision, your decision has to be on the law and the facts in an individual case. WOODRUFF: Republicans say Justice Brown is this year's Clarence Thomas, that Democrats just can't accept African-American conservatives.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: The Democrats are claiming anyone who is conservative, who is a person of color, who is pro-life, is outside of the mainstream of American jurisprudence.

WOODRUFF: Some liberals accept the Thomas comparison, but in a negative way.

JULIAN BOND, NAACP CHAIRMAN: Janice Rogers Brown's nomination validates the worst fears of the most severe critics of affirmative action, the fear that an unqualified minority will be nominated solely because of her race.


WOODRUFF: That was Julian Bond, commenting on Justice Brown.

So, bloggers debate what they believe are the real reasons behind tonight's White House news conference. We'll check in with our blog reporters to see what's being said about the president's appearance in prime time.


WOODRUFF: President Bush's prime time news conference is still a few hours away, and already it is apparently big news in the blogosphere. Let's check in now with CNN political producer Abbi Tatton and Jacki Schechner, our blog reporter. Hi, Jacki.


Yeah, that press conference will pre-empt most major prime time programming: some of the bloggers having fun with that fact in anticipation of tonight's presser. Over at, "you will be happy to know that Suzanne Somers' jewelry -- goddess jewelry special -- on the Home Shopping Network will still be airing."

ABBI TATTON, CNN POLITICAL PRODUCER: Liberal blogger Eschaton (ph) -- this is -- questioning the timing of this news conference, and also suggesting it might be an abuse of presidential power. Why? This is called "Cower My Pretty." "Submit before my will," he says, "for I am Bush, and I will pre-empt the O.C. winning me fans nation-wide. Fans of 'Will and Grace' will be forced to watch me for I am the president. You must listen."

SCHECHNER: See, Abbi just wanted to say "president."

Over at Dame Asian (ph), that's He's a Canadian blogger. He says, "want to know how you can get those poll numbers up, Mr. President? Don't schedule a press conference during 'Survivor,' 'CSI,' and 'The Apprentice.'"

On a more serious note, over at "There will be two things tonight worth watching for. The first will be reporters who actually ask tough questions. The other will be whether or not Bush actually answers any of the questions posed to him. The slope is getting slippery these days and no doubt Rove is earning his money."

Now, something that may come up tonight is the issue of the filibuster, possibly, and over at, they have a downloadable pdf file of the letter that Senator Frist sent today to Senator Reid as a compromise. Conservative bloggers still very much behind the up or down vote.

TATTON: We're not sure -- just on the news conference story -- we're not sure, but bloggers very worried that they are going to pre- empt all the things. We're not sure if they are, yet. We're certainly showing it here at CNN.

On the filibuster story, a liberal blogger and Princeton University student -- this is Asheesh Kapur Siddique -- is protesting any possible change to the filibuster rules over at this blog here, Princeton Progressive Review -- that's -- but also on the campus of Princeton University, outside the Frist Center, so named for the senator and former student there at Princeton. This protests is, in fact, a symbolic filibuster of any proposed change that might happen. There's a web cam. You can see them all out there. They have been out there since Tuesday, 53 hours, 25 minutes, and nine seconds -- 10 seconds. You can watch this. It's going on all the time.

What are they doing out there? Well, they've got plenty to keep them occupied. They are reading from de Tocqueville, from biographies, the Princeton University student phone book through the middle of the B's -- very exciting, lots to tide them over. They also have a bull horn you can see in the picture here that can play both "Hava Nagila," the Princeton University fight song, and "O Solo Mio." I don't know how long it's going to go on for, but the protest is certainly continuing right now.

SCHECHNER: And if you're getting tired of the two-party system, Robert over at has a suggestion. "Simply put, there are enough centrist-minded politicians to band together and create a third party that could actually break the lock hold of our current two-party system." The reason we like this post is that they've got the party animal all picked out. It's a "donkaphant" and looks to the left while pointing right.

Now, how many people do you think is famous in Michael Moore's hometown of Davison (ph), Michigan? It's right outside of Flint, and you probably think there are not that many. Well, Davison High School has rejected Michael Moore for its hall of fame four years in a row, a little tidbit that we picked up, once again, over at

TATTON: And blogger Kevin MaCcay (ph) of Davison, Michigan, is taking matters into his own hands: if he can't get elected to the hall of fame in the high school, he wants signs at the city limits announcing that Michael Moore is from there. He's got an online petition here that you can sign, stating the signs should say, "Welcome to Davison, Hometown of Michael Moore."

Some in the town, there, having a bit of fun with this. This is the site -- not a blog, but a Web site -- of a local golf club. "Home of Ken Maro (ph)," says the sign, "1980 U.S.A. hockey team and slovenly film hack, Michael Moore." So, not everyone in that town loving Michael Moore so much as Kevin McCay there.

Back to you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: I want to see the donkaphant again.

SCHECHNER: I can show you that. Hold on -- little left of centrist -- hold on, give it a second to pull it up. There you go. It says, "looking to the left while pointing to his right."

WOODRUFF: I guess that's better than an ela -- whatever it would be the other way around. We like him. OK.

SCHECHNER: Ela-onkey.

WOODRUFF: All right, Abbi, Jacki, thanks very much. We'll see you tomorrow.

Finally, a personal item: I've announced today that after 12 years at the network, I'm leaving CNN. I have had many challenging and exciting opportunities here, most of them in connection with this very special program, INSIDE POLITICS. I am so fortunate to have been supported by an incredible, talented team of people who I'm going to miss very much. I can't say yet where I will be, but I will stay in journalism to do long-form projects, and I will teach and I will do some speaking and some writing. To you, our viewers, I will miss every one of you, but we have another whole month to say good-bye. That's it for INSIDE POLITICS this Thursday. I'm Judy Woodruff. "CROSSFIRE" starts right now.



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